Dictionary of Wisconsin History
Search Results for: Keyword: 'zarahemla'
Term: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Wisconsin
Definition: The "Mormon Church" is an inclusive term for groups bearing variations of the official name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The fragmentation of the church in the 1840s following founder Joseph Smith's doctrine of plural marriage and the rise of Brigham Young to the presidency of the church led to the resignation of small groups of Mormons who formed their own organizations claiming to be Smith's rightful successor. Some anti-Brighamites followed James Jesse Strange, Prophet and King, to the Voree colony in Walworth, Wisconsin, and later to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. In 1980, the Strangites numbered around 300. Another schismatic group founded the settlement of Zarahemla near Blanchardville in 1852 and received Joseph Smith III as their leader in 1860. Known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they are found primarily in the Mississippi Valley and is headquartered in Independence, Missouri. The controversial doctrine of plural marriage (polygamy) was officially ended in 1890 by the Utah-based church. The Reorganized Church, in contrast, rejected plural marriage from the beginning and had the greatest impact in Wisconsin in the 19th century. In 1843 and 1844, two groups of settlers led by Lyman Wight came to the La Crosse area from Nauvoo, Illinois but both settlements were abandoned as members moved south to Texas. The followers of James Jesse Strang arrived in Wisconsin in 1844 and settled in Voree. Their numbers increased rapidly between 1845 and 1848, and the bulk of the colony soon moved to Beaver Island. By 1854, 2,500 Strangites lived on the island with another 1000 in Voree and elsewhere in Wisconsin and Michigan. Strang's assassination dealt a blow to the church though it survived and remains active in parts of Wisconsin. Southwestern Wisconsin emerged as the center of Mormon activity, particularly with the founding of Zarahemla near Blanchardville in the 1840s. The Reorganized Church was founded in 1853 and until 1859, conferences were held at twice a year at Zarahemla. Between 1890 and 1906, the number of Mormons in Wisconsin tripled, from 342 members to 1,184. While the Reorganized Church had an early hold on Mormon membership, by 1936, the original Church nearly matched the number of members statewide.
[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]
1 records found
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Wis